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TV Viewing on the Decline: YES!

Posted in New Media and Tech, and Podcasting

Ever since I got into “new media” I’ve been struck by a real disconnect. Podcasters, bloggers, blog readers, YouTube watchers and other assorted users of the tubez are extremely vocal in their hatred of certain old media (commercial radio for the podcast set, and newspapers for the blog fans) but many seem positively addicted to cable and broadcast television.

Why is this? Why are the same people who turned off broadcast radio for podcasts, or the-ones who make their living telling the New York Times how last century it is composing love sonnets to their TiVos?

From where I sit, most media content provided by massive conglomerates is crap, whether it be radio, TV or movies. It’s not the conglomerate itself that turns the programming to crap; it’s the need to attract and provoke a large audience. And it’s-the degree to which that audience allows itself to be so conditioned by the habit of watching television, that all critical judgment seems to have been lost. How else do you explain reality TV?

Sure, part of my beef is political. I don’t like media consolidation, and I think it tends to destroy the kind of critical thinking that keeps politicians and corporations honest. But the way I know I’m right has nothing to do with my own sanctimony about corporate media. I know I’m right because the mere suggestion that someone who uses TV simply stop watching it when bad shows come on is almost always met with the equivalent of a blank stare. TV is not, for many people, a medium that brings programs they enjoy. It’s background, it’s a babysitter, an amusement park, a beer at the end of a long day. And when entertainment is consumed that way, you can pretty much put anything on the screen and guarantee that people will accept what they’re being fed.

Today I saw this article that finally begins to point to parody between television viewing and Internet use. Good! Certainly, there is a lot of crap on the Internet, but you can still choose from an array of programs, sites, networks and the like that are completely user-created and published. On TV, you have to sift through 150 really bad choices and that’s all you get. Once you give yourself permission to turn the thing off, you realize just how much of what’s on is an utter waste of time.

It’s too early to use the bloggers” newspapers are dead template when it comes to television. But I’ll be watching for opportunities to stick a fork in TV as it currently exists.